Academies were a flag ship policy of the labour government, and the first academy opened in 2002. The conservative government is expanding the academy programme and wants to  encourage every secondary school which is performing well to become an academy.  All free schools, studio schools and university technical colleges  will be academies. At the time of writing, 54% of secondary schools are already academies or in the pipeline to become academies.

In some LEAs, the majority of secondary schools are now academies.

Academies are state schools that are independent of the local authority.  They have the freedom to set their own pay and conditions for staff, deliver their own curriculum and set their own term dates and school times.  In reality, however, these freedoms have not meant that academies are necessarily very different to non-academies, day to day. Some freedoms that have improved schools, however are

  • better training, terms and conditions for staff
  • links with future employers
  • timetables and a curriculum that improve pupil performance.

Academies established prior to the change of government in May 2010:

  • all have a private sponsor who has a significant degree of influence over the school’s curriculum, ethos and staffing
  • were often established in areas of high deprivation, and replaced previously failing schools
  • often recieved significant funding for new buildings

Academies established post the change of government in May 2010:

  • are not required to have a sponsor
  • will either have been deemed to be ‘performing well’
  • or will be under-performing schools which have converted to an academy with a sponsor
  • receive the same level of per-pupil funding as they would receive from the local authority as a maintained school, plus additions to cover the services that are no longer provided for them by the local authority.
  • come from a range of backgrounds. They could be a group of successful schools, a business, a charity or a faith body
  • often operate a chain or federation of academies. Each chain or federations of academies has its own sponsor. Different sponsors establish different ethoses for their schools, and have different success rates.  At the time of writing, the biggest sponsors of academies are
    • Academies Enterprise Trust, E-ACT, Oasis, Ormiston Trust, School Partnership  Trust, Kemnal Academies, ARK schools, Harris Federation, Greenwood Dale Foundation Trust.
  • could establish a faith ethos, focus on a geographical location, or have a specific improvement programme for all their schools.

If you are thinking of choosing an academy for your child, it is worth considering that

  • research has demonstrated that results in sponsored academies that have been open the longest have improved at a faster rate than in other state-funded schools.
  • otherwise there is not yet a body of evidence that demonstrates that academies are better than other state-funded schools.
  • a large number of academies are sponsored by religious groups and therefore have a religious ethos.
  • different academy chains have different success rates, so you need to research each sponsor individually.
  • academies are required to follow the law and guidance on admissions, special educational needs and exclusions as if they were maintained schools. However, you apply directly to the academy, rather than through the LEA.
  • Academies are usually more popular with parents than the schools they replaced.

Further Information

LEA admissions

You can find out from your local education authority whether there are academy schools, or any plans to establish one, in your area.


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